14 year-old Gambo arrives at the community house in Korotonto, dressed in a multicolor t-shirt and jeans adorned with white writing. He is here to take part in a session on teaching children about decision-making bodies.
As a youngster, Gambo was a regular at the Niméké Kids' Club, where he learned to forge positive relationships with his peers, family and community members, to take care of other children and to respect nature.
On the strength of the skills and know-how he demonstrated in the Kids' Club, Gambo was invited to take part in the training sessions run by the Suppliers' Association Collaboration Committee (CLCOP). This is a community-based organization (CBO) tasked with implementing child-sponsorship initiatives as well as child protection and participation activities in the Korotonto area. In cooperation with the Centre for the Development of Popular and Physical Education (CDEPS) in Kédougou, it is leading a campaign to inform children about their rights.
Gambo is a student at Korotonto college and an active member of the institution's social center, so he is ideally placed to deliver the training sessions at the Kids' Club - informing children and their parents in a reassuring tone about how kids can get involved in decision-making bodies, particularly family councils, village and neighborhood associations, and the Alert, Monitoring & Listening Committees (ALMCs). An ALMC is a community organization which exists to watch over how the rights of children are being respected at village and neighborhood level.
In the Tomboron area, children do not have a forum for expressing themselves, and getting them a role in decision-making bodies remains a major challenge because many adults consider that they are just innocent little kids with no right to an opinion. For this reason, the child sponsorship, protection and participation wing of the Tomboron program has set up clubs which will give children just such a platform for self-expression, self-development and participation. Out of the 25 villages that make up the Koronto area, ten of them have Kids' Clubs and 13 have Alert, Monitoring and Listening Committees (AMLCs), each of these incorporating a child representative.
"Before I joined the Kids' Club, I couldn't even speak up in a group of three. One Saturday afternoon, Aunt Boury [community development facilitator] came to our school to talk to us about setting up a Kids' Club. She was joined by Uncle Mala and Uncle Dondo [both trainers from the educational collective]. A big meeting was convened for the following Saturday to launch the Kids' Club, elect those who would hold office and to choose the male and female mentors.
In the vote my companions chose me for the role of peer educator. We went on to receive training in the rights of the child, leadership skills, protecting nature, hygiene etc. Aunt Boury, Uncle Mala, Uncle Dondo and our mentors helped us to organize the club. It was through being involved in things like this that I gradually got more confident about addressing an audience. Now I have no qualms about speaking in front of people and I am even a member of my college's social centre."
Creating such forums for self-expression and self-development for children will continue to develop their sense of responsibility. The Kids' Clubs are really spaces where children learn to become constructive members of society who can apply themselves in a range of situations.
Photos credits: Abdou Mendy